Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Familia Chronicle: Episode Lyu
In Orario, the city that caps the Dungeon, the Benevolent Mistress is a tavern with a reputation for good (if expensive) food and drink, beautiful waitresses, a no-nonsense policy toward troublemakers, and the strength to enforce it. Rumors also circulate that if you're in desperate trouble, crying in your beer in that tavern might get the attention of someone willing to help. That is how Lyu Leon, an elven waitress who is secretly the notorious blacklisted adventurer Gale Wind, comes to be involved in a matter concerning a young woman being taken to the Grand Casino as payment for her father's gambling debts. To save her, she and Syr must infiltrate the casino and find a way to win her back.
A second story looks back to the time a few years past when the Benevolent Mistress, in a span of just a few weeks, obtained three of the waitress who now form the core of the establishment's wait staff.
(Note: Because the main character's name is consistently transliterated as Lyu rather than Ryu in this novel, that spelling will be used throughout this review.)
In a franchise full of colorful characters, Lyu Leon is far from being among the most dynamic. Nonetheless, her clear ability and the hints of a dark backstory scattered through the main novel series contribute towards making her an interesting enough character to be worthy of feature treatment. If that's not enough on its own to entice franchise fans to check out this novel, then the two stories presented here collectively provide another compelling reason: they also offer a wealth of tidbits about both various side characters and a critical time period that has only been lightly alluded to elsewhere in the franchise. For a franchise as starved as this one is for a definitive sense of history and backstories, that turns the second story in particular into a high-priority read.
Of course, the stories are helped greatly by Lyu not having to carry the whole load on her own. Though she is the nearly-exclusive focal point character throughout the first story, Syr is practically her co-star, to the point that she completely dominates some scenes. Though Syr was originally introduced in the franchise as the normal human girl who has taken a romantic interest in Bell, hints have been dropped throughout the main DanMachi novel series that she is anything but normal, and that aspect of her comes to the forefront in the first story. That she possesses a powerful charisma has long been obvious, but she also shows in this novel that her somewhat ditzy behavior masks an intimidating degree of cunning and insight. That only further raises questions about who she might actually be, and other details spilled between the two stories suggest an even stronger connection to Freya Familia than has previously been implied. I've even wondered in the past if she might not be a proxy for Freya, and nothing in this novel dissuades me from that speculation. The second part, contrarily, splits the focus also across the assassin Black Cat and the mercenary brawler Black Fist.
Taken together, the two stories also spell out something that has not really been hinted at in previous novels but has been strongly implied recently in the Memoria Freese mobile game: that the Benevolent Mistress is actually secretly stocked with frightfully strong individuals. Exactly which gods the key players are affiliated with is also revealed, and both newcomers to the pantheons and surprise affiliations await in those revelations. (Which one is a relative of a previously-introduced side character also gets heavily implied.) The second story also introduces the heretofore-unseen concept that people can have the Blessing of a god without actually formally being part of the god's Familia and expands the range of activities that non-adventuring Familias might focus on.
Most importantly for the big picture, these stories also lay out in much greater detail the circumstances which led to Lyu getting blacklisted. We still don't get the full story here, but these stories make it clearer that her familia (here identified clearly as Astrea Familia) was killed off by the Evils and that her relentless pursuit of revenge involved destroying every remaining trace of, and affiliation with, them in the wake of the Nightmare on Floor 27. Without ever saying so, the story also makes it clear that many, if they knew the circumstances, might even label her the city's savior for that and that many, including possibly the Guild, only give lip service to prosecuting her for her past activities for the same reason. Also made clear is how thoroughly Lyu was saved, body and soul, by coming to the Benevolent Mistress and why she can't refuse Syr anything. She's not the only one whose life was reshaped by this association, either.
Then there's the casino scenario, which is set between the sixth and seventh novels of the main series. If anything is overdone in these two stories, it's that aspect, as that whole business is rather silly despite how serious the activities underlying it are. Essentially transplanting a major modern-world casino into a fantasy setting strains credibility, as does such a prominent feature of the city never being mentioned before now. Still, it does give Bell, in a limited appearance, a chance to fully exploit one of his less prominent abilities and the story comes together pretty well as a heist-type caper. Fujino Omori's writing style also has all the usual irksome quirks.
Physically the novel clocks in at 209 pages, with the two stories splitting the volume roughly evenly. Unsurprisingly, the profile at the end is a stat block for Lyu (although the partial profiles of two other characters appear in the story text), with the trifold color glossy at the beginning featuring the Benevolent Mistress staff on one side and scenes from the Grand Casino story on the other. The standard array of black-and-white illustrations are scattered throughout, with the quality seeming a little higher than normal, and a standard two-page Afterword follows. The one disappointment on the production side is that the editing is unusually loose for Yen Press standards; I counted at least five clear errors. Granted, not a lot, but still more than there should be.
Overall, I consider this entry to be high-priority reading for anyone who wants a broader picture of what's going on in Orario and how the city compares to other world locations from a traveler's point of view. Omori indicates that he intends to write more Chronicle novels as a way to expand the setting and characters, and they will be welcome.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Provides a wealth of additional details on underexplored parts of the setting, some surprising character revelations
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